Summer League action is fully underway and along with it comes all sorts of speculation regarding players having breakout seasons. This time around, Patrick Baldwin Jr is the center of attention for the Washington Wizards.
Despite being a five-star recruit out of high school and a first-round pick in last year’s NBA Draft, he was only involved in the Chris Paul for Jordan Poole trade as a throw-in piece. Taking inspiration from Micheal Jordan, he seems to be taking it personally.
Through the first two games, Baldwin Jr has not only shown his elite knack for scoring but has also shown flashes of being a legitimate two-way player. He has looked far more locked in mentally and physically on that end of the floor than he ever did with his former team, he is even reacting quicker than normal as well.
This development is key to his breakout in the NBA. While he has the size and skills to be a threat on offense, defense has been a huge weakness for him early on. He has the size to be impactful, but his lack of athleticism almost puts his frame to waste on that end of the floor. Learning the Nikola Jokic style of defense should be priority number one for the 20-year-old.
What could hold Patrick Baldwin Jr from getting heavy minutes for the Washington Wizards?
Due to the timing of everything, Patrick Baldwin Jr has only spent a few days with the Summer League roster and has spent even less time with the main team. This could potentially hold him back, but it is more likely that other factors hold him to a bench role.
The Wizards decision to re-sign Kyle Kuzma with put a huge restriction on the rotation at the power forward position. Having Deni Avdija, Bilal Coulibaly, and Corey Kispert all available at the three just adds to that pressure in the forward positions. In order to get minutes, Baldwin Jr will have to prove that he is worth playing over some of these players.
This will clearly be the uphill battle for the newly acquired Wizard. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr has the tendency to favor defense, making a player like Patrick Baldwin Jr, historically a defensive liability, even less likely to get minutes over a player like Deni Avdija, a defensive specialist.
Even with these roadblocks, I think it’s very likely that he breaks into the rotation to start the season. He is too talented offensively to just leave on the bench. What seems the most likely is that Kuzma or Avdija will slide over to the three for a while to allow Baldwin Jr onto the floor.
If Patrick Baldwin Jr is able to keep up his defensive improvement through the Summer League and into the regular season, he will be one of the key names to watch for the Washington Wizards going forward. He is only 20 years old and has tremendous feel for the offense, seeing that aspect of his game grow is what needs to happen next.